Rage Against the Machine

Live in an antique house, and you make certain compromises.

The “new” part of my Ipswich house was built in 1817. The “old” part — from 1797 —probably housed animals before it was moved into position as my kitchen. These were apparently not very tall animals, because the exposed beams in my kitchen ceiling have konked many a visitor in the head. People we like, we warn in advance.

Cabinets are mounted above the counters, like in most kitchens. But with such a low ceiling, there’s not much space between the countertops and the cabinet bottoms. All that stuff you keep on your kitchen counters? It all has to be extra-short at our house. A slice of bread popping out of a toaster could ricochet and kill you.

We drink a lot of coffee, so I demanded the biggest possible coffeemaker that would still fit under our cabinets. Kristina went shopping.

If I say “coffeemaker,” what brand comes to mind? On the other hand, if I say “power tools,” what brand comes to mind? Probably not the same as the coffeemakers’, right? But come to find out, a certain popular maker of power tools — drills and saws and leaf-blowers and such — also makes coffee pots. I’m talking about a company whose name you’d recognize the name instantly if I had the nerve to share it — but let’s just call them Bleck & Dorky, to keep their lawyers from using one of their nail guns on me in court. I guess it follows that a maker of big, brawny power tools also makes the biggest coffee pot that still fits under our kitchen cabinets.

The machine arrived to great gladness. We could make 12 cups of coffee at a time! I rejoiced.

But a coffee pot is not a belt sander. This is not a piece of equipment you keep in your garage and make a mess with and clean up when the project is finished. Call me spoiled, but I expect the coffee to drip into the pot, nowhere else, and pour from the pot into the cup, plain and simple. The Bleck & Dorky coffee pot was apparently designed by their weed-whacker division.

Our countertop became a daily wasteland of drips and spills. And that old idea of “good to the last drop”? Forget about it. The bottom of each cup was like your shoes after a walk on Crane Beach. The folks at Bleck & Dorky seemed to lack the delicate touch required to develop a coffeemaker that would keep the grounds in the basket.

I tried to accommodate the technology by learning new skills. Pour more slowly? Hold the pot at a certain angle? Hold your mouth just so while pouring? Whisper a spell while scooping the grounds into the basket?

Eventually, we gave up. I gave Kristina new shopping parameters: We wanted the biggest possible coffeemaker manufactured by people who specialize in coffeemakers. No Toyota “Javamaster.” No Microsoft Brew 2.0. Avoid the Adidas ZipDrip. And don’t even think about the FedEx Filter King.

Our new coffeemaker was made by Krups, the coffeemaker-makers. I was a little nervous to discover that Krups has branched out into waffle-makers and toaster ovens, but they started out (in the 1800s) making scales and industrial balances, instruments requiring great precision, as opposed to lawnmowers and angle grinders and things that make messes. So our Krups keeps the coffee right where the coffee is supposed to be.

Now, with continuous kitchen mop-up off the agenda, we have more time and energy for leisure activities. This must be how people felt in the old days when someone invented Velcro.


Doug Brendel lives on outer Linebrook Road in Ipswich, Massachusetts. To find him, follow the aroma of cinnamon hazelnut. Or visit DougBrendel.com.

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